A new study led by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute for the Study of eye and ear diseases has shown that vestibular thresholds begin to double every 10 years over the age of 40 years, which represents a decrease in the ability to perceive sensory information about the movement, balance and spatial orientation. The report was published online ahead of print in «Frontiers in Neurology».
According to senior author Daniel M. Sommerfeld, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School, raising of threshold values correlated with the results of the test of insufficient balance, and according to previous studies that those with poor balance, are more likely to fall.
More than half of the population go to the doctor at some point in their lives with the symptoms associated with the vestibular system (dizziness, imbalance and blurred vision). The vestibular system, which consists of tiny canals in the inner ear is responsible for receiving information about the movement, balance and spatial orientation.
To determine whether gender or age on the function of the vestibular system influences, the researchers carried out tests on the motion and equilibrium among 105 healthy individuals from 18 to 80 years and measured their vestibular thresholds ( "threshold" refers to the smallest possible movement of which the subject is able to perceive correctly) . They found no difference between the thresholds of both men and women, but found that the thresholds are increased over the age of 40 years in relation to the study of motion.
According to researchers, these incremental thresholds are correlated with the inability to complete the standard test of balance. This correlation indicates that the risk of falling affects the vestibular function. Using data from previous studies, the researchers suggest that the vestibular dysfunction may be the cause of 152,000 deaths in the US annually. It is estimated that among the causes of death of vestibular dysfunction is the third largest in the United States after heart disease and cancer.
The relationship between the threshold and vestibular equilibrium assumes that there might be more effective treatments that improve thresholds.
"We have long known that in patients with disorders of the vestibular system out of balance, - Dr. Meerfeld said. - If weak vestibular function leads to the fall, we will be able to develop exercises to improve balance and vestibular function. "